Winter is here! The trees have lost their leaves, small mammals are eating their caches of black walnuts and acorns, and the birds are picking away at the last of the sumac and crabapples. So what’s left for us foragers? Winter is the perfect time to take advantage of the many edible coniferous trees and berries that sweeten after the first frost for our winter recipes!
When we forage for and create winter recipes for our meals, snacks, and drinks directly from nature, we have such control of what goes into our bodies as well as start to understand and appreciate the ecosystems around us a little bit more.
What are you foraging for in Winter? Here in Southeastern PA, there are many goodies available, from the needles of trees such as the Eastern Red Cedar, Eastern White Pine, and Blue Spruce, to the invasive hips of the Multiflora Rose. Mushrooms, such as the Turkey Tails, are available, provided we’ve identified them correctly.
Are you new to foraging and want to learn how to get started and what foraging etiquette to abide by as you harvest?
Get inspired to forage with some of these wild-plant based snacks and winter recipes and you’ll never look at the natural world the same way again!
Harvest berries from the Beautyberry shrub and dry between paper towels for a few days, or quickly in the microwave (do not heat the berries in the microwave for more than 15 seconds at a time). Once they are dried, add to clean jar and crush them with the back of the spoon or pestle. Pour honey overtop of the crushed berries and seal the container. Every day, for two weeks, flip the jar over to ensure that all of the berries are covered and infusing their purple-goodness into the honey. When ready to serve, slice pears thinly and lay them out, slightly overlapping each other. Double boil the infused honey until it becomes runny, then strain out the plant matter (compost or eat them raw). Drizzle honey over the pears, then crumble the feta overtop.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Add all ingredients (minus the pine needles) into a bowl and beat on low until homogenous. Finely chop up pine needles and stir in. Knead dough until it is warm and forms one solid dough ball. Roll dough out on a floured surface to be 1/4″ thick, then cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Place cut out cookies onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and gently press 3 garnish berries/hips into the top. You can also gently poke holes into the cookies with a fork or skewer to allow for even baking & decoration. Put sheet in freezer or refrigerator for 15 minutes, until they are cold to the touch, then bake for 15 minutes!
Immediately out of the oven, sprinkle sugar overtop, then let cool before serving.
If you don’t want to bake a large batch at once, you can keep cookie dough in the freezer until you’re ready to bake the rest of them.
Wash the harvested Rosehips and remove unwanted debris. Add fruits and 1 c. water to a saucepan and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Some of the water may dissipate as steam – don’t worry! Continue heating until the fruits are easily squished. Once the fruits are soft, mush them up with the side of a spoon, or a fruit masher. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out seeds, then dissolve the sugar or honey in the remaining liquid to create a syrup. When dissolved, pour rosehip syrup into a punch bowl. Add the remaining liquids and cranberries. Adjust lime to sour/sweet taste. Serve cold.
Allow herbs to dry thoroughly prior to using for tea (you have to use more fresh material since the nutrients are less concentrated, so it’s less efficient in the winter). When ready to make your tea, cut or grind up 1 tbsp.. of dried plant matter of your choice and put into a tea steeper. Bring water to a boil, then pour into mug. After a minute, add the steeper. Excess heat breaks enzymes down, making your tea less medicinal. If you boil your tea, it’ll still taste yummy though! For maximum medicinal function, steep your tea for 10-20 minutes. If you just want a delicious hot tea that has some medicinal value, you can steep your tea for 3-6 minutes.
Note – Since my garden herbs have finished drying from the summer and fall, my personal favorite tea to have in the winter includes many non-winter plants. I love a blend of peppermint, ginger, and lemon balm in the evenings. This decoction (what we commonly call hot tea) improves digestion – something helpful for the cold holiday season when we’re eating heavier meals!
Now that you’re more comfortable with foraging, learn more about creating specialty drinks with wild-edibles, regardless of the season with my “Trails-to-Tasting” Foraging Guide & Cocktail Eco-Recipe Book!
Discover more wonders of the natural world, tips for how to forage, and some eco-recipes and tutorials on my YouTube channel’s Wild-Edibles & Foraging playlist!